In August 2020, the Charleston County Consolidated 911 Center hired a mental health counselor after a partnership with Dorchester Mental Health.
Since the partnership, the call center has received 436 calls from individuals facing mental health crises; these individuals were provided professional help from a counselor immediately.
“Mental health crises are just as scary as a crime, fire or accident, but they require a specialized response,” says Jim Lake, Director at Charleston County Consolidated 911. “A trained counselor can best understand the problem, de-escalate it, and explore options to connect the caller to community resources.”
911 call takers are still using procedural measures in receiving a call by gathering the facts. If calls are deemed to be pertinent, callers are then transferred to the next available counselor who will provide immediate support. The counselor can also share access to local resources, and even help the caller realize their own coping mechanisms.
“The value in our partnership with 911 is that we are involved from the start of the call,” says DMH Executive Director Jennifer Roberts. “This lets us be ready to provide services or follow up to existing patients and those reaching out for the first time,” Roberts adds.
EMS or law enforcement (or both) are only dispatched when there is an urgent need, and they will work in conjunction with the counselor to resolve each situation.
“Our program is evolving as we learn more. We are grateful to our DMH and emergency response partners and committed to the goal we have every day – getting the right help to people who call,” says Jim Lake.
Lake encourages residents to call 911 when an urgency-involved mental health crises arises.